Sunday, September 19, 2010 4. Paris Day 1


I have to admit that it was a little odd waking up in London on Saturday morning and thinking, “Wow!  I should jump on a train to Paris today.” somehow this is just a run-of-the-mill, something to do just because it’s the weekend type of thing. But when you think about's really not such a bad thought.

So off to Paris on the train…leaving out of Kings Cross nice and early.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a long distance train ride before…but they are not always the smoothest form of transportation. But I have to tell you…riding along the countryside on THIS train felt nothing short of floating. I just glided along on the rail and watched the world go by…well, zipped along actually…this thing really moved.

By the way…did I mention I got to ride in The Chunnel? Oh yeah…also way cool. And it’s truly an amazing feat of engineering, if you really consider it. But not as long a part of the train ride as I expected. The actual Chunnel itself was maybe only a half an hour out of a 2 hour trip.

So finally, I arrived in Paris.

After a quick drop off of the luggage at the hotel, I hit the town running. Since I only have 2 days to cram in hundreds of sights and years worth of history, I had to get started as soon as possible. So the first stop was a stroll down the tree lined Champs de Elysees to the lovely Arc de Triomphe.

Then it was time to jaunt over to the Left Bank for more sights. Coming out of the subway station on the escalator, I looked up to see a beautiful blue sky, and emerged into a city full of amazing sights and sounds. The architecture is simply gorgeous, the streets were bustling with activity and I found myself right in the middle of the Saturday farmer's market. The smells coming from the booths were just incredible. Fresh fish out of the ocean, vegetables so fresh they look like they were picked today, chocolates, cheeses, wines and meats. Anything you would normally think to grab out of the corner grocery store were all right here in the Latin Quarter instead….ready to go home to be prepared for a couple of suppers later in the week. If only I had the time…

Time for a quick bite at a wonderful little restaurant in the Latin Quarter...with a maitre'd who could guess any one's nationality as they walked by.  No seriously...his "call out" to people was where he guessed they were from...and 9 out of 10 times he was correct.  It was the craziest thing!!!

After filling up on my first Parisian lunch, and just around the corner from the earlier farmer's market, another fabulous Parisian sight….Notre Dame.

The clock was just chiming the hour when I arrived, and as I stood listening to the bells, I found myself in awe and amazement. The craftsmanship of the building is spectacular…the attention to detail astounding and, once inside, the stained glass, the gilded walls and the expanse of the interior is nothing short of breathtaking.

Emerging from the church, I decided to proceed down the pathway of the River Seine to catch more lovely sights…
Pont Alexandre

Grand Palais

Les Invalides

The River Seine

Until finally I came around the corner and caught sight of that which we all know so well…

That trash can in the corner is my absolute favorite in all of Paris.

Well, and then, of course is that whole Eiffel Tower thing in the background.

Yup…there it was. The Tour Eiffel….designed by Gustave Eiffel and was built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the World's Fair.  The tower stands 324 metres...about the same height as an 81 storey building...

So yeah....that's waaaaaaaayyyyyyy up there.

Well, after milling about the park a bit, it was time to head back to the hotel and freshen up for dinner. No I actually didn’t get a chance to ride up the Eiffel Tower yet. Unfortunately, at the time, there was only one of two elevators running and only about a thousand people waiting to buy tickets to join the other thousand people waiting in line for their turn. I kid you not…that line was ridiculous.

So for dinner, it was off to the Ile Saint Louis for my absolute favorite restaurant in all of Paris. I don’t know if you’ll find it in the tour books…I don’t even think I’ve ever seen it show up on a website. But it is, in my opinion, the absolute best place to go in terms of food, atmosphere and an entire dining experience. Welcome to the Au Sergent Recruteur (The Recruiting Sargent). 

When you walk in, the first thing you’ll probably notice about the restaurant are the baskets of vegetables and meats out on the table. If you choose the prix menu that they offer, this is your first course (after a lovely aperitif). You literally grab the knife and start slicing away at whatever you’d like to eat from the basket. This is then followed by your main course, then a frommage plate and lastly dessert. Oh…and did I mention that ALL the wine and beer you can drink is included in the fixed price of your dinner? Yes…all of the wine you could want is free. The story of the restaurant was once explained to me like this…apparently, back in day, men would be lured into little holes in the wall and fed all the food and wine they could handle (which, let’s be honest, when it comes to free, is a lot of wine). After spending the entire night drinking bottle after bottle, the men would apparently awaken the following morning, only to find that—at some point during the evening’s festivities—they signed their lives away and enlisted into the French Army. Now, I did not end up enlisting in the French Army last night, but I was able to tuck away quite a bit of food and libation.

Everything about the dining experience was fantastic…the food was fabulous, the wine divine, and the servers so delightful and charming; all in all a lovely evening. We also had the opportunity to meet up with two very lovely ladies also visiting from the States…Julia and Sarah...whom we ended up chatting away with during the course of the two hour dinner.

After a post-dinner drink (or two), as the clock neared midnight, there was one final task to be met before the night was over. So back on the Metro and a race against the clock to get back to the Eiffel Tower so as to not only see it lit up at night…

But to also catch the top of the hour light show; where thousands of lights along the tower begin to sparkle

In one completely understated word…beautiful.

So after being dazzled and blinded by lights, it was time to head back to the hotel…my feet still ache, and I was exhausted, but what an amazing day. Awe inspiring sights…scrumptious, decadent food and wine…a city full of fabulous people and the chance to make new friends…

I love Paris.

And I still have another day left!!!!